Putting What I’ve Learned to Good Use: Appealing a Parking Ticket

The knowledge I’ve gained as to the legal system since filing my suit against the TSA is invaluable. Knowing one’s rights, and precisely how to demand them, is a beautiful thing.

So, when a Miami Beach “public safety officer” (hereafter, “the meter maid”) asked me to move my car while I was loading it in a “no parking” zone, I politely informed her that I wasn’t parking, but standing. She not so politely wrote me a ticket and informed me to move my car or it would towed. I looked it up later, and I was indeed right: parking in Florida is defined as “the standing of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, otherwise than temporarily for the purpose of and while actually engaged in loading or unloading merchandise or passengers…”

No problem, just go to the little parking court hearing and explain and they’ll toss the ticket right? Nope. “Hearing officer” Carmen Dominguez, who according to her profile with her day job at Miami Dade College has been an attorney for 23 years, wanted to hear none of it. She refused to allow me to ask the meter maid what the definition of parking was. She hurried me, telling me maybe 2 or 3 minutes in that people were waiting. And, despite eventually getting the meter maid to admit that she thought parking was defined as “when the gear shift is in park” and that she made no attempt to determine if I was loading or unloading, I was found guilty and fined a wallet-busting $40 or so.

Clearly she didn’t know who I am. 😉 I went down to the Parking Violations Bureau and filed a Notice of Appeal, together with a filing fee of ~$300. Quite the gamble: if I lose, I’m now out $340, and if I win, I’m up my $40 (assuming I can chase down the county for the filing fee) — which is probably why the clerk at the PVB told me I was the first one he’s ever seen file an appeal. I then took my appellate brief that I filed in my first TSA case and used that as a template for my new appeal. I researched Florida appellate procedure (it’s not complicated and took maybe an hour or so) and the parking laws one more time, and went to writing. Twelve pages later, my appellate brief was finished. The arguments were basically, 1) the only witness against me admitted she didn’t know what parking was, 2) the only witness against me admitted she didn’t know if I was loading/unloading, and 3) the judge erred in refusing to allow me to ask the meter maid for the definition of parking.

The county decided not to respond to my appeal. This doesn’t get me a default judgment, however: in appellate court, the case is still evaluated on the merits of the appeal and based on any records from the lower court. I got the happy verdict today: reversed and remanded! A 3-judge panel ruled that “as a result of [the meter maid’s] misconception of the law, this Appellate Court finds that insufficient evidence existed on the record to satisfy the statutory elements proving the existence of a parking violation.”

This is actually my first win in appeals court, so it’s pretty exciting for me, even if it’s a low-stakes case. Was it worth it? Probably not, but it’s that “principle of the thing” that gets me every time. 🙂 It’s also nice to see that the kangaroo courts that many municipalities set up can indeed be beaten. I think I’ll send an autographed copy to the meter maid and Ms. Dominguez. 😉

In case anyone wants to give it a go themselves, here’s what worked for me…

Florida v. Corbett – Appellant Brief (.pdf)
Florida v. Corbett – Reversed & Remanded (.pdf)

21 thoughts on “Putting What I’ve Learned to Good Use: Appealing a Parking Ticket

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  1. I’m curious what would happen if you sent a certified-copy of the decison, and a registered letter to the ‘Hearing Officer’, with a legal demand for the identity of her bonding-agent. 🙂

  2. Well, the hearing officer likely has absolute immunity, so no chance at going against her in any way (other than by writing to her boss — the chief judge of the county — which I shall do). But, she will get a copy of the decision since it was “remanded” (which means sent back to her, with instructions to undo her ruling), so at the least, she’ll know she was slapped-down from the circuit court. And, of course, I intend to rub it in the face of the meter maid next time I see her. 😉

  3. It is unfortunate you can’t recover the $300 appellate filing fee – or maybe that is another filing you have to do? Clearly, the intent of the law was very reasonable in saying you could be in a no-parking zone if loading/unloading passengers and merchandise. I am sure there is interpretation….taking 1 hour to load/unload would probably result in a ticket and possible towing.

    Congratulations on asserting your rights and your legally allowed behaviour!

  4. Jon, we need more like you. 99.9% of the population would not make the investment and fight for a principle. And I hope you do file that motion to get your $300 back.

    Hopefully this has inflicted a purple-enough bruise on the local justice system that their parking enforcers will now know what parking is and think twice before issuing a citation like yours.

  5. Good for you! But how disheartening that it takes so much time and effort to just get government to use common sense. More evidence that government at all levels has gotten so bloated that they are about control not governance.

    Wanted to give you a link to a story about TSA agents pulling patdowns at a political rally in The Villages: http://pumabydesign001.com/2012/08/24/tyranny-alert-tsa-infringe-upon-the-liberties-of-attendees-at-paul-ryan-campaign-event/

    Not sure what transportation TSA needs to secure at a retirement village–wheelchairs and walkers? OMG.

  6. hey do you have any comments on the tsa goons testing peoples drinks they got after playing security theater! what’s up with that? I saw the video and thought it was funny, minus the fact it was creepy,pointless and beyond real life words!

  7. I successfully fought and beat a $20 parking ticket earlier this week. I had parked in front of a religious institution (I have HC plates too), walked into the building to get a permit, and by the time I turned around after getting the permit and starting to walk back, I was ticketed for parking without the permit I had walked in for (with my cane and surgical shoe on). So the bastard had to see he was ticketing a f**king cripple. Also, with the same hand he put the ticket on my windshield, he could have felt the hot engine and seen the HC plates and given me a minute to return with the goddamn permit.

    Case dismissed. Officer reprimanded.

  8. Originally Posted by Adam144 So you actually have the un-realistic expectation of a Police, security staff, parking meter maid, etc. to know every. single. rectangular. inch. of their goal or legal bounds to the page? Or at least what to look up and what not to look up, all at a moment’s notice and retain a copy in their back pocket?

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